Rankings Review: Is Starling Marte Really A Lock To Be A Top 20 Outfielder?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

There is a lot to like about the Pirates’ Starling Marte, as he brings both power and speed to the table.  He’s shown them both in recent seasons, with career highs in home runs (19) and stolen bases (47) split between 2015 and 2016.  A career .289 hitter and coming off the following year, what exactly is there not to like:

489 At Bats
.311 Batting Average (152 Hits)
9 Home Runs
46 RBI
71 Runs
47 Stolen Bases
.362 On Base Percentage
.456 Slugging Percentage
.380 Batting Average on Balls in Play

With 34 doubles and 5 triples, it would seem like the power isn’t a “concern” and he’s posted four straight seasons of 30+ stolen bases.  It makes sense that people want to see him ranked higher than #21, so why did he “fall”?  Let’s take a look:

 

Average
This is where the big question comes for Marte, and while he’s not likely going to fall into a .260ish hitter there’s a better chance he posts a mark in that range as opposed to .310 once again.  The BABIP is the first tip off, but there also is the risk of his poor approach catching up to him (SwStr% // O-Swing%):

  • 2013 – 12.2% // 35.9%
  • 2014 – 12.8% // 36.3%
  • 2015 – 13.7% // 39.4%
  • 2016 – 12.7% // 39.2%

Last season he posted a 19.7% strikeout rate, but given the marks above it isn’t a stretch to project it rising back into the 24% or higher range (where he was in ’13 and ’14).  Couple that with his BABIP, which is going to fall regardless of his speed, and the potential for a significant regression is realistic.

 

Runs/RBI
Even if he were to hit atop the batting order, despite not taking a single AB there last season, his lack of walks (4.7% for his career) and potential drop in batting average is going to limit his opportunities to score.  As it is he’s never scored more than 84 runs in a season (2015), and with Pittsburgh’s lineup hardly loaded it’s easy to imagine him falling short of 80.  That especially becomes true when looking at where he was utilized in ’16:

  • Second – 86 AB
  • Third – 5 AB
  • Fourth – 250 AB
  • Fifth – 123 AB
  • Sixth – 20 AB

With the regression Andrew McCutchen has shown, how can we expect a significant number of runs scored?  The supporting cast may be improving, but it’s still not an exceptionally deep lineup.

Marte also is not a significant power threat, even though he easily could reach 15 HR, and the drop in average is going to have an impact in his RBI as well.  Could he drive in 70 RBI?  Absolutely, hitting in the middle of the lineup, though remember he’s only once surpassed 56 RBI (81 in ’16).  Without 30+ HR, he’d need to carry a higher average in order to get there.  As we’ve already said, that’s hardly a given.

We can’t underestimate the impact in these counting stats, as compared to other players at his position.  It’s not that he won’t produce, but there’s risks involved.

 

Conclusion
Having ranked Marte at #21 shouldn’t be taken as a slight against him, as he is slotted in a tier that goes from #12-22.  Moving him up in the rankings is understandable, as he has the upside of a Top 15 option.  We can’t just overlook the risks, though, even with the potential for him to be a 10/40 player.

Sources – Fangraphs, CBS Sports

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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catcher03/20/1702/28/17
First Base01/16/1703/07/17
Second Base03/22/1703/09/17
Third Base02/06/1703/12/17
Shortstop02/13/1703/15/17
Outfield#1-20 |03/16/17

#21-40 |03/16/17
03/19/17
Starting Pitcher#1-20 |02/27/17

#21-40 |03/02/17
--
Relief Pitcher01/02/17--

2 comments

  1. Alex says:

    Lots of good analysis, and it at least puts to rest as to why you think Marte couldn’t beat out the likes of Justin Upton and Mark Trumbo. When it comes to predicting 2017 value, though, you may be leaving out some of Marte’s primary fantasy value as well as some of the risks of players ahead of him on your list.

    It is widely understood that power was up last year, so the typical all-power, no-hit slugger is severely devalued (see: Duvall, Carter, etc). The fact that Marte may only get 10-15 home runs is a pity, but it’s not where people are hoping to find his value. It’s his legs, and with fast players who don’t cripple a roster at a premium, Marte’s stolen bases should propel him up your list, BABIP or not. Another big speed guy, Billy Hamilton, is lucky to touch 5 home runs in a depressing line up. Dee Gordon is like Hamilton, but he has the risk that he may not get to .300 again. The fact that Marte actually has some power is a helpful secondary skill, and though it doesn’t put him up there with Trout, Betts or Blackmon, putting him near Turner is not out of the question.

    Even if he doesn’t gravitate near Turner due to the concerns you have, there is a lot of guys ahead of Marte on your list that not only don’t steal bases or hit for good average, but have risks of their own, some of which are probably more foreboding. Trumbo is lots of pop but won’t help in average or steals. Braun, Bautista, and Gonzalez all have an injury history that could pipe up at any time. Pollock was out for nearly an entire year, yet you have higher hopes that he returns to form and not Marte. And despite Upton’s good year, he just seems like a guy one really can’t trust to show up consistently. Like Trumbo, he is mostly a power guy with a bit of speed.

    It’s not that Marte shouldn’t be devalued based on the stats you’ve illustrated here. It’s just that I think you’re hanging some of those stats a bit heavily without considering that Marte’s floor is still quite promising if not everything falls apart as your article hints at. I think Marte is at least a top 15 outfielder, or top 10 if he can put 2015 together. Since we’re all just guessing here, with hopes that injuries and kinks get worked out by April, I feel that leaning more towards optimism is the way to go given previous output.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Alex, it’s a fair point and as I’ve said I have no issue with someone pushing him up significantly based on the speed. For me there is a good amount of risk, though.

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